Guidelines for preparing your Econ 431 problem sets

You should be aware that the problem sets in this course are long and difficult. Under no circumstances should you put off looking at the problem set until the night before it is due, because you probably won't manage to finish it even if you stay up all night. Please take a look at the problem set early, try each of the problems, and then look for help in the places where you're stuck. You can compare notes with other students, ask questions in class, come to office hours, or send emails to the professor with details about exactly where you're stuck.

Remember that you must write up your problem set independently, even if you've collaborated with others in figuring out the solutions to the problems. Evidence of plagiarism will be punished severely.

This document gives some further guidelines that will make it easier for the preceptors to give you all the points you deserve for the work you've done.


  1. Organize your thoughts. It's wise to write down your ideas to help yourself with the problem-solving process. Even if you don't fully manage to solve the problem, you can get partial credit for having correct ideas. This depends on you being able to convey your thoughts clearly, as you would in an English class.
  2. Explain yourself. If you are not sure whether you have explained your ideas thoroughly, you probably have not. When you make a mistake, a complete explanation gives you better chance of earning partial credit. Conversely, even if you write down the correct numeric answer to a problem, you will receive zero credit if your answer lacks an explanation.
  3. Charts and graphs are good ways to explain your thought processes. Please make sure to include clear labels of the axes and of the functions being graphed.


  1. Please put the problem numbers next to the problems. This helps us keep track of what problems you have done so that we do not miss any of your work. It is fine to include the chapter problem numbers for your own benefit, but be sure to include the problem set numbers as well.
  2. Please organize your work in the order described by the problem set. Most people end up doing some of the work out of order. When you do this, we advise starting each new problem on a separate page, so that you can easily sort the problems into the correct order before turning them in.
  3. As a corollary to #2, please do not split problems up into separate sections of your problem set.
  4. Always staple your work. We are not responsible for lost, unstapled pages.
  5. As a corollary to #4, please do not insert unstapled pages into your stapled problem set.
  6. Please write your problem numbers low enough on the page that the staple will not cover them.
  7. Please write legibly.
  8. Please do not include extraneous sheets of paper, such as cover sheets or rough drafts of your problem-set solutions.
  9. Consider using lined paper to make your work easier to read. Graph paper can be even better.
  10. Students with poor handwriting sometimes choose to type some or all of their problem sets (perhaps with hand-drawn graphs on top of the typed text). The resulting neatness is much appreciated, and can make it easier for the preceptors to award points.